The 2023 MLB regular season is winding down. There are still playoff races happening for AL and NL Wild Card spots and divisions up for grabs, but most teams’ seasons are winding down. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen prospects getting the call as teams make last pushes for the playoffs. Guys like Pete Crow-Armstrong, Jordan Lawlar, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Heston Kjerstad have all been promoted to boost their team’s MLB lineup. For fantasy baseball though, there is little value to them at this point for the 2023 fantasy baseball season. Sure, we get to see them at the highest level, but in terms of helping a fantasy lineup, it’s basically moot. As we start our preparation for the 2024 MLB season and 2024 fantasy baseball drafts, who are the prospects we should be looking at? Who can be up early enough to give us a lot of fantasy value in our fantasy drafts? Players like Wyatt Langford, Jackson Churio, Jackson Holliday, Carson Williams, Colt Keith, Kyle Teel, Ben Brown, Chase Hampton, and Drew Thorpe. Those are the prospects we’re looking at in this week’s fantasy baseball prospect report.
Wyatt Langford — OF Texas Rangers
The top pick of the Rangers in the 2023 MLB Draft has already made it to Triple-A, and with good reason. He’s been smoking the ball at every step in the minors he’s been at. The main reason Texas moved him to Triple-A to close out the year was to keep him getting regular at-bats with the Double-A season ending. Either way, the fact that he’s already at Triple-A and Langford has looked this impressive in moving up, makes an argument for him to be in play come early 2024 in Texas. There’s also an argument to be made that he’s a top-five prospect in baseball right now with a huge upside for fantasy baseball managers with plus Hit and Power tools.
Jackson Churio — OF Milwaukee Brewers
If you saw the news earlier this week, Churio is one step closer to the majors after his promotion to Triple-A Nashville. After 122 games at Double-A Biloxi in 2023 while hitting .280 and going 22-43 in HR and SB with 23 doubles, he was clearly ready. It didn’t hurt that the Double-A season was ending and Milwaukee wanted their 19-year-old wunderkind to get more at-bats. Churio is in the conversation for top prospect in MLB with his plus Hit and Power skills to go with double-plus-to-elite Speed. It’s been a mix-and-match outfield for the Brewers this year and that should leave the door open for Churio to be up by June of next year, if not sooner if he has a great spring training.
What is there left to say about Holliday? The second 19-year-old on this list and my top overall prospect in baseball has been on a rocket ship through the minors this year reaching Triple-A a few weeks ago. The lefty-hitting, righty-fielding middle infielder has proven his meddle each step of the way this year across Class-A, High-A, Double-A, and now Triple-A Norfolk. The traits are there to make him a perennial All-Star in a similar vein to Bobby Witt Jr with double-plus Hit, above-average Power, and plus Speed that could result in a .300, 25-HR, 35-SB fantasy baseball asset. If he has a great camp, he could be a starting second baseman for the Orioles in April of next year.
Earlier this year I’d have been more cautious on Williams but a couple of things have changed that. Clearly, the Wander Franco situation changed things but Williams basically skipping Double-A for Triple-A helps too. He’s the next likely choice for a full-time starting shortstop despite still being just 20 years old and being draft just two years ago. Possessing 60-grade power and 55-grade speed, he’s also a likely 20-20 threat in the middle infield. The average is likely to be so-so with a below-average Hit tool but we can take that from a 20-20, or better, threat.
Colt Keith — 2B Detroit Tigers
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Keith in the prospect report this year, but hey, when you keep hitting the way he is, it requires mentioning. Over 122 games in 2023, across multiple levels, Keith is slashing .311/.386/.560 with 27 HR, 99 RBI, 87 R, and three SB. The average and power are real as he grades out as an above-average-to-plus Hit tool with plus-Power while playing a very good second base. The Tigers don’t have an answer at the Keystone right now aside from Keith and with him crushing it at Triple-A, that should up his ETA. There’s a very real shot that he’s the starting second baseman in Detroit for Opening Day 2024.
The time is now for the Orioles and their bumper crop of young talent. We’ve already seen Gunnar Henderson, Heston Kjerstad, and Jordan Westburg take up spots in the infield for the AL East leaders. The next in that line is Mayo at first base. The power is legit, he’s posted 28 homers in 135 games across multiple MiLB affiliates this year, even though the rest of the game is a tad underwhelming. The .288 avg and .408 OBP this year is quite nice but the 45-grade Hit tool speaks to him regressing a tad. Mayo has a strong enough arm to play at third or the outfield but first is the cleanest fit as he supplants Ryan O’Hearn as soon as early next year, like by May.
Kyle Teel — C Boston Red Sox
Leading up to the 2023 MLB Draft, I had Teel as my favorite catcher in the draft, by a nose, and said that he’d likely be fast tracked depending on where he was drafted. That’s happened. He is at Double-A Portland already. Over his first 26 games in pro ball, Teel is slashing .363/.482/.495 with two homers, 22 RBI, 15 R, and three steals. Not bad for a guy also learning to call games at the pro level and the nuances of pitch framing in the upper minors. The Red Sox were in need of a high-level catching prospect and that’s what they have in Teel. Don’t be surprised when he shows up in Boston ready to help your fantasy teams by June. That might seem a tad fast, but just look at how fast other college catchers have come up in Patrick Bailey and Henry Davis recently. Ultimately, he profiles as a .260-.270 hitter with 20-22 HR pop and a handful of steals from behind the plate.
Ben Brown — RHP Chicago Cubs
Perhaps the most unlikely prospect I’ve ever written up, Brown has been a slow, long burn. Drafted in the 33rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft by Philadelphia. Flipped for David Robertson at the 2022 Trade Deadline, Brown has been a great addition to the loaded Cubs’ farm system. Possessing three plus pitches (fastball, curveball, and slider), Brown has been putting those to work across two levels in 2023. Over 25 appearances, 19 starts, and 92 innings he’s racked up 128 strikeouts but 56 walks and a 4.01 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. The ratios, and control, aren’t great to be honest. The stuff is fantastic, as we can tell by the scouting grades, but the control doesn’t help his case and actively lowers his upside. Part of the control issues stem from his lack of time on the mound since being drafted with less than 300 frames in games since June of 2017 due to injuries. There is a fourth pitch in the arsenal but it is a highly below-average changeup that doesn’t really factor much into games right now. He’s either a number three starter with a lot of strikeout upside or he’s a high-leverage reliever if he can’t cut the walks down.
Chase Hampton — RHP New York Yankees
What has New York needed for a while? Pitching. Whether it be starters or relievers they just need quality, healthy, pitching. Hampton is getting awfully close to providing that in the Bronx. The righty is getting his first taste of pro ball in 2023, after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2022 MLB draft, and he’s already made it to Double-A Somerset. The righty who uses a four-pitch mix on the mound has been solid in his debut, though not outstanding. Hampton has combined for 106.2 IP over two levels and 20 starts with a 145:37 K:BB ratio, .214 BAA, 1.14 WHIP, and 3.63 ERA. The fastball anchors the repertoire as a plus-offering in the low-to-mid-90s with run. His breaking pitches are both above-average and distinct from each other while both being swing-and-miss pitches. HIs changeup is the only real question mark in the repertoire being too close in velocity to the fastball. All told though, the 6’2” 220-pound righty has the makings of a high-end number three starter for the Yankees as early as next year.
Drew Thorpe — RHP New York Yankees
What have the Yankees needed for forever? And no, this isn’t a copy of Hampton’s analysis, it’s just fact. They need pitching. A lot of it. Thorpe, the Yankees’ second round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, is currently at Double-A Somerset but is turning hitters there into mincemeat. In the 139.1 innings this year, Thorpe has a 182:38 K:BB ratio, 44:5 K:BB mark in 30.1 IP at Double-A. Along with striking opponents out at a great clip, he’s not letting them on base either with a .200 BAA and 0.98 WHIP over those 23 starts. Thorpe uses his three-pitch mix well to keep hitters off-balance, and he has to given the middling velocity he throws with. It’s more about movement and pitch mix with him which does limit his upside to a mid-rotation starter at best but most likely a number four at the MLB-level.
You’ve heard, or read, about me discussing Gasser before, I did it earlier this year. He’s starting to look like the next big strikeout arm to be added to the Brewers’ rotation for next year. Gasser was gotten from the Padres in the deal for Josh Hader in 2022 and since then has been tearing up the Milwaukee farm system. The southpaw has been at Triple-A Nashville for the whole of the 2023 season with a 9-1 record in 26 appearances (25 starts) over 135.1 IP and a 166:50 K:BB ratio. A 3.79 ERA and .8 HR/9 mark is solid for a pitcher in the PCL as well. The Brewers have long been a team that just seems to find high-strikeout, solid arms for their rotation and Gasser is clearly that. His four-pitch mix doesn’t jump off the page but a plus-slider and above-average cutter mix well with the average fastball-changeup combo. The control and feel for pitching makes the arsenal play up with middling-velocity on all of his pitches. Gasser could be a number four in the rotation next year with strikeout upside of a high-K number three starter.